How a breast screen saved my life

When a health check has quite literally saved your life, it’s hard not to shout from the rooftop to encourage others to get on board.

“I can’t understand why people don’t use a free health service like BreastScreen Queensland when it can help you detect cancer and save your life,” says breast cancer survivor Marianne Kostellar.

Kostellar, 60, has been adamant about breast screens ever since health professionals at BreastScreen Queensland discovered a small lump in her right breast in 2012.

That lump turned out to be HER2 Positive breast cancer. At 7mm, it was so small there was no way she ever would have found it through self-examination.

She underwent a lumpectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation and the cancer was gone.

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Kostellar is one of the lucky ones.

“You can’t say it doesn’t happen because it does,” she says. “It happened to me.”

Many women delay getting a breast screen because they fear it will hurt or take too much time out of their day.

Rather than viewing it as a potentially life-saving procedure, they think of it as a hassle.

“I think it’s the pain that people worry about and the fact that you’re getting your breasts squashed,” she says.

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“But now I can sit back with authority and say I can think of worse things than a few seconds of pain!

“If you discover a lump at a later stage it can be a lot more painful and you can be in a lot more trouble than the few seconds of what you’ve got to put up with at a breast screen.”

Breast screens have come a long way in the past decade. Now, friendly, female health professionals conduct the screens and most appointments don’t last longer than 30 minutes.

“The nurses there were so lovely and supporting and very professional,” Kostellar says.

“I can’t fault that service. There’s no waiting around. You just make your appointment and you’re in and out.”

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Five years after her cancer battle, Kostellar has annual breast screens to make sure there isn’t a reoccurrence and diligently reminds her friends and family to get checked.

“How can you say it’s never going to happen?” she asks. “We don’t have a crystal ball.

“You go and get your teeth checked and have other health checkups. Breast screens are just a part of what you have to do to look after yourself.

“Not only do you owe it to yourself, but you owe it to the people around you and your family to spend quality time with them for as long as you can.”

Queensland Health recommends all women aged 50-74 attend a breast screen once every two years.

You can book your free breast screen appointment online at www.breastscreen.qld.gov.au or by calling 13 20 50. No doctor’s referral is necessary.

When was your last breast screen? What was the experience like?

BreastScreen Queensland

A breast screen only takes 30 minutes and is a must every 2 years for women aged between 50 and 74.